14 Years later…As time goes, so do my memories. This is the one day I let myself slip, to my own detriment as to never forget…
What seems like a lifetime ago, I was sitting by the water on West St. in NYC. Fate had brought me to “Ground Zero” in NYC that afternoon….
That morning I was in Washington, DC filming the Pentagon in flames from across the Potomac River. That was a different life back then. As a news cameraman for various networks over the years I thought I seen it all. Hurricanes, earthquakes, OJ and the occasional politician run a muck. Nothing could have prepared me for what lay ahead after I was assigned to “get up to NYC by any means necessary”. Washington was in disarray that morning. Navigating through downtown and the Capitol grounds was reminiscent of a JJ Abrams film. Just chaos. There aren’t many days that a look at that white dome on the hill and think about those folks on the Shanksville plane. They did in fact save my life that day. I’m sure of it. Once out of the city, the road were eerily empty. All the way up 95, on to the NJ turnpike. Empty. Like Stephen King empty. Just creepy. Don’t think I ever made a trip to NYC faster than I did that day. Felt like a sub 3 hour drive easy.
Late afternoon I stood on the soil that made up Liberty State Park. Looking out over the water to my right, the iconic Statue of Liberty and further out Ellis Island (where my dad had passed through as a young boy during WWII). Ahead of me across the Hudson was the smoldering skyline of lower Manhattan. With the sun setting behind the plumes of smoke I did see into hell that day. I said to myself “when I get home (if I get home), I’m never going to be the same again…”
So after making my way onto the island and navigating the chaos that was lower Manhattan I did what it is I do. I document, I film, I talk, I interview. I try make sense of the senseless. I try to sleep but can’t. I think of home. I often think how different my experience would have been had I just been able to get home every night like my colleagues in Washington had. Just for that hug, that meal, that safe 4 hours of sleep. I don’t even remember how or where I sleep those first two nights. I do remember the third and being scared out of bed at 3am by a thunderstorm cracking its way through the canyons of the city. Sounded like the end of the world. Everyone was a bit jumpy. Jumpy enough to be evacuated from the hotel at 8am because of a bomb threat.
So on day four I found myself tearful, covered in dust, wondering (cosmically) how the f*ck I got here. The smells, the sirens, people weeping. Need to be home right now. In the midst of all the death, all the destruction, a small stray dog saved my soul that day. I had found my way to the river. Air. Needed out. A bench by the water. I sat down with face in hand, trying to process all I was seeing. Too much. I lifted my head up to find a small, toungue wagging shepard mix dog sitting at my feet. Within a millisecond of looking up he had nuzzled his nose into my lap. I’m scared too man…it’s cool. That mangy liitle mutt had given me some thing soft and cuddly to cling to that dreadful afternoon. Something warm, something sweet. We sat by the water for a few minutes (patting your head). We ate canned tuna and beef jerky together. It was my only food for the next 48 hours, but I was happy to share it with you. In someways, you saved my life that day. Gave me a mental shield. Protection.
Thanks little doggie, where ever you are. I hope you are well. Thank you for the shield. You can run “off-leash” in my neighborhood anytime you like.